By Barb Arland-Fye
Nancy Gould remembers feeling overwhelmed as the newly divorced mother of three children under the age of 7. Sometime later, she attended an evening session of the Divorced and Widowed Support Group, which at that time met at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport.
Participating in the group “opened my eyes. You think your situation is the worst it could be when you walk in the door. When you hear other people talk, you think, ‘Wow, there’s always something worse than what you’re going through.’”
Now, as a facilitator of the Divorced and Widowed Support Group, Gould hopes to encourage others needing support to join the group for Tuesday night meetings at the St. Vincent Center in Davenport. The evening begins at 7:30 p.m. with meditation, followed by an opportunity to talk about everyone’s week.
Participants review lessons from a book the facilitators have found to be especially helpful: “Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends,” by Bruce Fisher. They cover 20 chapters, usually a chapter each week.
The group began as a program of the Davenport Diocese years ago. It got started through the Office of Family Life, said Mary Wieser, the diocese’s director of Faith Formation. Lolita Dierickx assumed leadership of the program for separated, divorced and widowed that a Sister before her had developed.
The program responded to an initiative of the U.S. bishops at that time which focused on hurting families, Dierickx said. Meetings were held one afternoon and evening each week.
Gould, a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf, joined the group about 23 years ago. She remembered that as many as 100 people gathered with her for the evening meetings. She felt affirmed.
After Dierickx left in 1995, Gould and other group members took responsibility for organizing meetings and have continued to do so ever since. They’ve met at different parishes in the Iowa Quad-Cities, relocating several times until finding a new home at diocesan headquarters this summer.
“Nancy has championed this without a lot of help from the diocese. We’re grateful to her that she’s continued this ministry that is needed,” said Wieser. The renovation of diocesan headquarters, completed earlier this year, opened up more office space. “Since we have the room now, we thought it would be wonderful for us to take a little more active role in supporting this group.”
Gould, group president Elinor Hollenbeck of Moline, Ill., and Fay Wulf of Durant, are among longtime members who remain committed to the ecumenical group because they know others will benefit just as they did.
“ We’ve had a lot of people come back and send other people to us because they know it works,” Gould said. “There is life after divorce.”
What’s been helpful to participant Bob Boden of Moline is being able to explain his situation and discovering that other people in the group have gotten through it. The book the group uses also is a good resource, he said.
Participation fluctuates, but Gould says at tops, 10 to 12 individuals attend on a given Tuesday. She’s hoping to welcome even more. “I’m sure Mary (Wieser) would find us a bigger room if we needed it.”
For more information about Divorced and Widowed Support Group, call Nancy Gould at (563) 355-2519.